Julie Andrews Said ‘My Fair Lady’ Was the ‘Greatest Learning Experience on Stage’

Julie Andrews has played iconic roles in classic movies such as The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and The Princess Diaries. The now-86-year-old actor began her illustrious career on the London stage when she was only 12 years old. But Broadway beckoned, and in 1956 Julie Andrews starred in the original stage production of My Fair Lady.

The Thoroughly Modern Millie star has had many roles since then, but she calls her portrayal of Eliza Doolittle as her “greatest learning experience.”

Julie Andrews’ ‘My Fair Lady’ stint shaped her as a performer

Julie Andrews My Fair Lady stage show
Julie Andrews wearing her ballgown from the stage musical ‘My Fair Lady’ circa 1960 | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Andrews recently discussed the challenges of playing Eliza in My Fair Lady, her first full-scale production. She recalls never having performed in a play of that magnitude made her feel as if she were out of her depth.

“It really was the greatest learning experience on stage that I could ever have had,” Andrews recalls in a Vanity Fair interview.

Headlining the musical for over three and a half years, she performed eight times a week. The Victor Victoria actor learned to preserve her voice, deliver lines, and play comedy regardless of what was happening in the audience, in her personal life, or outside the venue.

According to the Academy of Achievement, “When My Fair Lady opened in 1956, it was an unprecedented success. Critics acclaimed it as the greatest musical ever staged, and it sold out months in advance. Julie Andrews won universal praise for her incandescent performance.”

The long-running production won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and Andrews received a nomination for Best Actress. According to Gold Derby, the elusive Tony win keeps Andrews from EGOT status. In 1965, she won a Grammy and an Oscar for her role in Mary Poppins, and in 1973, she earned an Emmy for The Julie Andrews Hour.

Julie Andrews has done plenty of voiceover work too

Though Julie Andrews is known for her iconic stage and movie roles, many people don’t know the beloved actor also has a long history of voiceover work.

According to Insider, she “provided the singing voice of Ainsley Jarvis in The Pink Panther Strikes Again.” Andrews also brought to life Queen Lillian, Fiona’s mother, in Shrek 2 and Shrek Forever After. She has narrated the Disney film Enchanted, starring Amy Adams, and was the voice of Gru’s mother in the Despicable Me franchiseAnd in 2018, Andrews voiced the colossal sea creature Karathen in the film Aquaman.

Most recently, adoring fans can’t get enough of Julie Andrews’ storytelling abilities in the smash hit Bridgerton, where she impeccably narrates the role of Lady Whistledown.

The actor and singer has enjoyed an illustrious career

The American Film Institute recently honored Julie Andrews with the 48th AFI Life Achievement Award. Some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities were in attendance to pay tribute to their friend and colleague. 

Dick Van Dyke, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Lin-Manuel Miranda were among the many stars to send video messages. Carol Burnett, Jane Seymour, Steve Carell, and many others spoke at the ceremony. 

Bo Derek, who worked with Andrews and her husband Blake Edwards on the 1979 film 10, said, “Blake and Julie made seven films together. And as impressive as that is, it’s nothing compared to their 41 years of marriage … And for me and for all of us, what they had onscreen and off, was a perfect 10.”

Singer Gwen Stefani, who used a sample of The Sound of Music song “The Lonely Goatherd” for her 2006 hit “Wind It Up,” told Andrews as she sat in the star-studded crowd: “You have brought so much joy into my life and to all of our lives. Thank you for your ‘sound of music.'”

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